Thursday, November 15, 2012

Swiss Stupa: The Bhutan Bridge

So here we were at a camp near Susten (check the post on Swiss camping sites  ) making our escape from the 5 star luxury and taking a walk through the Alpine woods. Pristine forests, the ubiquitous cows, Swiss hikers with their walking sticks. Every cliché one expects .........until we take a bend in the road that is. Voila that really what i think it is ............

What is a chorten (stupa) doing in the middle of Swiss German countryside? My eastern sensibilities intrigued and excited I venture closer and there in front of me is a long bridge lined with little prayer cloths fluttering in the breeze ............

As I soon discover, this is the Bhutan Bridge,  a 134 meter long, 1 meter wide suspension bridge that traverses the Ilgraben trench in the Pfyn forest in the Valais.  It is quite new, having been built in 2005 as a gift from Bhutan. It was designed by a Bhutanese architect to be in line with the suspension bridges that have historically lined rivers in Bhutan.

It should have been no surprise really. Bhutan and Switzerland share a special bond. Landlocked and mountainous, of almost exactly the same size and similar in their wealth of natural beauty. Despite their vast differences in monetary resources both are among the 'happiest countries' of the world (trivial aside: the happiest country of all is Denmark). Switzerland has been a major source of development aid to Bhutan as it has opened to the world.

The bridge is meant to symbolise friendship and to traverse the Rosti divide as well ...the legendary divide between the German speaking and French speaking parts of Switzerland. Now, I think it would take more than a gently swaying bridge from the east to close that gap!

The incongruities are there ....the picnic table within 10 meters of the stupa and occupied by a family enjoying beer and sausage, the almost total absence of color (white seems to be a Swiss obsession), the original prayer clothes long gone to be replaced by just pieces of cloth .............

But still , as the white cloths flutter gracefully, their sounds mingling with the distant Swiss cowbells in almost perfect melody ...........east, west, German, all seems irrelevant. So much for clichés about Switzerland.
the bridge casting a shadow over the Ilgraben


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  2. Very nice history and nice pics.


    Himanshu Nagpal | Being Traveler

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